Saudi Arabia Has a ‘Clear Link’ to Violent Jihadist Groups in the U.K.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS AND THE BBC)

A Report Claims That Saudi Arabia Has a ‘Clear Link’ to Violent Jihadist Groups in the U.K.

6:01 AM ET

A report by a British think tank claims that Saudi Arabia is the principle foreign promoter of Islamist extremism in the United Kingdom and alleges a “clear and growing link” between overseas funding and violent Jihadist groups in the country.

The Henry Jackson Society — a neo-conservative think tank — also urges a public inquiry into the funding of terrorism by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, the BBC reports.

The calls comes as U.K. lawmakers face mounting pressure to release the findings of their own probe into domestic extremist groups, instigated by former Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015. In May, the Home Office described the findings as “very sensitive” and said it that they wouldn’t necessarily be made public.

Read more: Middle East Rifts Are Widening Amid a Global Power Vacuum

Like the United States, the U.K. has deep and convoluted security and economic ties with Saudi Arabia. In an April visit, British Prime Minister Theresa May reaffirmed the importance of the relationship. However, British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has lobbied for a block on arms exports to Saudi Arabia on the grounds of the Kingdom’s military action in Yemen and its poor human rights record.

In a statement cited by the BBC, Saudi Arabia’s embassy in London dismissed the findings of the Henry Jackson Society as “categorically false” and said they lacked “credible evidence.”

[BBC]

Syrian Refugee Identified as First Victim in London Tower Fire as Toll Set to Rise

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Syrian Refugee Identified as First Victim in London Tower Fire as Toll Set to Rise

London

A Syrian refugee has been named as the first victim of the towerblock inferno in London as officials expected the death toll in the tragedy to rise dramatically.

Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali has been identified on Friday as a victim in the fire. His brother Omar broke down in tears as he told how Mohammed got trapped in the burning block as they both tried to flee their 14th floor home.

Scores of people are feared dead after the massive blaze tore through the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in West London just after midnight on Wednesday.

London police said there is nothing to suggest that fire was started deliberately.

Omar, who initially thought his brother had escaped, spoke to Mohammed by phone from outside the block as he watched it engulfed in flames and thick black smoke.

“He said: ‘Why (have) you left me…?’ He said: “I’m dying. I cannot breathe,” Omar told the BBC.

“We came from Syria to be safe here, and now we’re dying.”

Mohammed, reported to be 23, came to Britain in 2014 and was studying engineering in London.
The Syria Solidarity Campaign said Mohammed had tried to call his family in Syria during the fire but could not get connected. He had not seen his family for four years.

“When the fire reached his flat … Mohammed bid his friend and brothers goodbye, saying that the fire had reached him. He asked them to pass on the message to his family in Syria,” the charity said in a statement.

“Mohammed undertook a dangerous journey to flee war and death in Syria, only to meet it here in the UK, in his own home.”

The charity said Mohammed had dreamed that he would one day be able to go back and help rebuild Syria. It called for a “thorough investigation” into building regulations, adding: “Mohammed came to this country for safety and the UK failed to protect him.”

Up to 600 people lived in the social housing block in more than 120 apartments. The official death toll stood at 30 on Friday but is expected to soar. Firefighters say they do not expect to find more survivors.

Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy responded to speculation that the number of dead could exceed 100, saying: “From a personal perspective, I really hope it isn’t.”

“The investigation will look in into what criminal offenses may have been committed,” he added.

Firefighters searching the smoldering ruin in west London have recovered six bodies from the tower, while 11 others have been located but cannot yet be removed from the gutted structure.

Families searching for their loved ones have blanketed the area near the tower with posters searching for answers, and sorrow is quickly turning to anger over whether recent building works were properly done.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William had arrived at a London site where community groups have gathered supplies for those affected by the tower fire disaster.

The queen is meeting with volunteers Friday and she has expressed her sympathies to families of victims. More than 1 million pounds ($1.27 million) has been raised to help victims of the fire

British Prime Minister Theresa May visited on Friday those injured in the fire after facing fierce criticism for attending the site but not meeting with residents.

She visited Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, which is treating eight people. Three are in critical condition.

May pledged on Thursday to hold a public inquiry into a fire that engulfed the building, but she has been widely attacked for not meeting with residents, sending ministers to do so instead.

The tower is in the North Kensington neighborhood, a working-class, multi-ethnic area next to some of the richest neighborhoods in Britain. Some observers asked whether hazards in the Grenfell complex were ignored because its residents are mainly poor.

A tenant group had complained for years about the risk of a fire in the building, owned by the local government in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Fire safety engineers were stunned at how rapidly the fire spread, engulfing the building in less than an hour in the middle of the night and preventing firefighters from reaching many people inside.

Authorities have refused to speculate on what could have started the blaze. But the focus has turned to renovations completed last year that added decorative touches to the building.

The project included installing insulated exterior cladding, double-glazed windows and a communal heating system.

Britain’s government has ordered checks at towers going through similar renovations, and some London neighborhood authorities said Thursday they’d do extra fire-safety assessments at public housing high-rises.

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Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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London Fire: At Least 6 Dead After Blaze Engulfs Apartment Tower

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

LONDON — A fire transformed a high-rise apartment tower in West London into an inferno early Wednesday morning, sending at least at least 64 people to hospitals and raising fears that others might have been trapped inside. The Metropolitan Police confirmed that six people had died and warned that the figure would almost certainly rise.

“In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never, ever seen anything of this scale,” said Dany Cotton, commissioner of the London Fire Brigade.

By the early afternoon, more than 200 firefighters from all over London were continuing to extinguish the remnants of the fire and to search for survivors, long after the blaze broke out at 1:16 a.m. in Grenfell Tower, in the North Kensington area. Constructed in 1974, the building has 24 stories, with 120 apartments across 20 residential floors.

“In my 29 years of being a
firefighter, I have never,
ever seen anything of this scale.”DANY COTTON, THE COMMISSIONER OF LONDON’S FIRE BRIGADE

The cause of the fire was not immediately known. Commissioner Cotton said the precise number of deaths had not yet been determined because of “the size and complexity of this building.”

Adib Abbas was visiting a cousin who lives on the ninth floor of the building. He said he was preparing a meal before their daily Ramadan fast when he smelled gas and then heard people in the floors below shouting.

“I opened the door and everyone was shouting ‘fire, fire, get back in,’” Mr. Abbas said. “Then a neighbor called my cousin and told us to wait for the Fire Brigade. We were terrified and thought about trying to get out the window. There were people dangling out the windows trying to get out.”

Continue reading the main story

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Local residents watching the fire. CreditDaniel Leal-Olivas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“My cousin had his kids with him, and they started crying and screaming when the smoke started coming in. There was no way out, we were stuck, and no one was coming to help us,” Mr. Abbas added. “I don’t know how long it took, but it felt like ages before we got out. I could see people lying on the floor as we were being pulled out. I think a lot of people died. It’s a nightmare.”

The Fire Brigade said the flames had spread from the second floor to the top of the 24-story building; aerial photographs showed the charred, blackened and still smoking ruins looming over West London.

Forty fire trucks were involved in fighting the blaze, and more than 20 ambulances were sent to the scene. The London Ambulance Service said it had taken at least 64 patients to six hospitals. Twenty were in critical condition.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Columns of thick smoke. The London Ambulance Service said it had taken at least 64 people to six hospitals. CreditAndy Rain/European Pressphoto Agency

Cmdr. Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan Police said the process of tracking everyone who was unaccounted for was “very complex,” and urged survivors to call a hotline set up to establish the condition of all the building’s residents. He said the Fire Brigade had arrived within six minutes of being called.

Alison Evans, who lives near Grenfell Tower, woke to the sounds of sirens and helicopters and watched the fire engulf the building from a nearby street.

“It just kept burning and burning for hours and for hours there were still people at the top of the building screaming for help,” she said. “It was hell to watch. We were watching people dying. I can’t imagine how many people must have died in there.”

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Firefighters training hoses on the building. A residents’ association has regularly complained in its newsletter of fire hazards in the building and what it called inattention by the landlord.CreditLeon Neal/Getty Images

At dawn, the blaze still burned brightly against the pale sky, with columns of thick black smoke ascending. Ashes filled the air, and small explosions could be heard as helicopters flew overhead. Firefighters on the ground trained hoses on the building. The police were extending their cordon around the building and pushing people back, apparently fearing that the tower could collapse.

Abdul Kadiri, who stood with his family watching the fire, said he had heard sirens about 1:45 a.m.

“My friend lives with his family on the 15th floor of the building,” he said. “I called my friend, and he had no idea what was going on. I told him to grab his family and get out, and he hung up.”

When the friend got out safely, Mr. Kadiri said, “he told me there was smoke everywhere, and he got out with the help of the firefighters who were on the fourth floor. He was a real mess and didn’t say much.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

A man inside the burning building. The London Fire Brigade said the flames had spread from the second floor to the top floor. CreditMatt Dunham/Associated Press

“He was just so happy to be out of there,” Mr. Kadri said. “He was crying thinking of all the children that would have been asleep on the higher floors and probably weren’t able to get out.”

Another resident, Hanan Wahabi, said she had spoken by phone to her brother, who was on the 21st floor, and urged him to leave. But he said firefighters had told him to stay in place until he could be rescued. Since then, she had been unable to reach him.

“I have done a lot of crying,” she said.

Meriam Antur was asleep on the 19th floor with her two children, her husband away, when she woke to the sound of sirens, followed by shouting in the corridors. “I panicked and called my husband while trying to put on my hijab so I could go and see what was happening,” she said. “I couldn’t get through, so I called my cousin, who told me to get out.”

Continue reading the main story

Photo

A resident in a nearby building. More than 200 firefighters from all over London were struggling to contain the blaze. CreditMatt Dunham/Associated Press

When she opened her apartment door, Ms. Antur said, “my neighbors were running back and forth in the corridor shouting at each other. I didn’t understand until my friend came in and said we had to wait for the firemen and couldn’t go down.”

“I was so scared. It took so long, my children were crying, and I’m pregnant,” she said, clasping her belly. “I was so scared. I thought we were going to die.”

Paramedics led Ms. Antur and her children away to be checked at a hospital. In the background, a woman ran barefoot down the street in her nightgown, screaming the name Elsa. Ms. Antur’s cousin said it was a neighbor who could not find her 6-year-old daughter.

Continue reading the main story

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Firefighters in a children’s playground covered in debris from the burning tower nearby. CreditNeil Hall/Reuters

In the early hours of the fire, witnesses said they could see lights — thought to be flashlights — blinking at the top of the building.

Bruce Evans, who lives nearby, said that a family of four he is friendly with — including a baby — had escaped from the ninth floor via the main stairs.

“The mum heard screaming and shouting, looked out of the window and saw flames. She said she has shouted ‘Oh my God, it’s fire! Let’s go,’” he said. “They are at the hospital now having checks on the baby.”

Continue reading the main story

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At least 40 fire engines were at the scene. CreditToby Melville/Reuters

Mr. Evans said that he was told that the fire had started on the fourth floor and that the occupant of the apartment in which it started had alerted other residents on that floor.

A residents’ association, the Grenfell Action Group, had been warning for years about fire hazards in the building and the surrounding area, and what it called inattention by the landlord.

According to the Get West London website, the Grenfell Tower block completed a renovation costing 10 million pounds, or $12.8 million, in May 2016. The upgrade — which included the installation of insulated exterior cladding, double-glazed windows and a new communal heating system — was financed by the local council, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, as part of a multimillion-dollar improvement project in the area.

In a blog post, the group wrote that the “the KCTMO narrowly averted a major fire disaster at Grenfell Tower in 2013 when residents experienced a period of terrifying power surges that were subsequently found to have been caused by faulty wiring.” It asserted that “our attempts to highlight the seriousness of this event were covered up by the KCTMO,” with help from the borough’s security committee, “who refused to investigate the legitimate concerns of tenants and leaseholders.”

The management organization’s chief executive, Robert Black, said in a statement: “The fire at Grenfell Tower is devastating and the reports of injury and losses of life absolutely heartbreaking. Along with my colleagues, I have been supporting residents since the early hours, working with the emergency services and the community.” He did not address the complaints raised by the Grenfell Action Group.

Rydon, the construction company that carried out the renovation, said in a statement that the work “met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards.”

“We will cooperate with the relevant authorities and emergency services and fully support their enquiries into the causes of this fire at the appropriate time,” the company added.

8COMMENTS

At the time the renovation was announced, in 2014, the management organization said in a statement that “residents of the tower have long had to put up with a substandard heating system and poor insulation,” and that a new heating system would allow them to set the temperatures in their units.

Kensington and Chelsea is one of 32 boroughs that make up London, along with the City, London’s financial district.

Why Terror Suspects in Europe Slip Through Security Cracks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT AND FROM THE WASHINGTON POST)

Why Terror Suspects in Europe Slip Through Security Cracks

London- About a year ago, police stopped a young man in the airport of Bologna, a town in northern Italy. Youssef Zaghba, an Italian citizen of Moroccan origin, had raised suspicions because he was to embark on a one-way ticket for Istanbul: They feared he was trying to reach Syria through Turkey to join a terror group.

After ISIS propaganda materials were found on his smartphone, Zaghba was arrested and briefly detained between March and April 2016. (Attempting to join a foreign ogranization is a crime in Italy, since a special law was introduced in 2015.)

Eventually authorities had to release him because his lawyer found irregularities in the arrest, but the secret services kept monitoring him and put his name in the Schengen Information System (SIS), the database where European Union member states share security information, so that other countries could be alerted that Zaghba posed a danger.

On June 3 of this year, Zaghba participated in the London Bridge attack that left eight people dead, along with the three terrorists.

Despite being in the EU’s watch list, Zaghba was let into Britain at least twice. Moreover, according to the local media, he was not considered “a subject of interest” by British security. Most recently, Zaghba traveled between two countries in January: He was briefly questioned in London’s Stansted airport. (It is unclear if the British failed to go through a check of the SIS database, or if they saw his name on the database and simply ignored the warning, as the newspaper Repubblica suggests.)

How could a terror suspect be on Italy’s watch list and not in the British one? And why didn’t the presence of Zaghba’s name in the SIS prompt UK authorities to keep an eye on him?

The London Bridge attack raises issue about the sharing of security information between European countries, at a time when terrorists have been shown to move often across the EU’s open borders.

It is not unusual after an attack to learn that the perpetrators were already known to anti-terror agencies. Some analysts argue that this doesn’t always imply a security failure, because there are too many people on watch-lists to monitor effectively all of them: There are some 23,000 “subjects of interests” for anti-terror agencies in the UK and 15,000 in France.

“Since it takes at least four agents to monitor a single suspect, it becomes apparent that many European countries lack the resources to monitor all of them and that there’s an overload of security information,” said Arturo Varvelli, the head of the Terrorism Program at ISPI, a think tank in Milan.

However, Zaghba’s case is different — and the way he slipped by, despite all the warnings, might not be just the result of an overburdened security system but also symptomatic of a different problem: European countries still haven’t fully learned how to read (and perhaps trust) each other’s red flags.

“It’s the second time, in less than a year, that a terrorist already known to Italian authorities has carried an attack in another European country,” notes Francesco Strazzari, a security expert at the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, referring to last winter’s attack in Berlin. The Christmas Market attack was carried by a Tunisian man who immigrated to Italy, and whom Italian authorities had tried to deport because they were aware of his radical tendencies.

In an interview, Strazzari recalled that the November 2015 attacks in France were also carried out by terrorists that had ties to a different country, Belgium, and who seemed to move freely between the two.

Critics of the EU have blamed its open borders for security failures, while its supporters point out that assets such as the SIS database are actually supposed to improve the security of each country. But Strazzari says that the main problem is that sometimes information gets “lost in translation.”

The EU, he says, doesn’t really have a pan-European security apparatus, but only a system that aims at coordinating the security services of each of its member states.

Varvelli, the ISPI researcher, argues that lack of trust might also pose a problem. Red flags about individuals are not clear cut, he explains: “Security officials need to interpret them, in order to grasp the level of danger, and knowing where that information comes from plays an important part in the process.”

But while they are bound to share information, the secret services of different countries aren’t keen on sharing with each other how they gathered that information — which ends up making the information less useful.

Varvelli said that ISIS is “well aware” of this weakness and are exploiting it: “Terrorists have realized that if they are closely monitored in the country they are based in, a good strategy is to move to a different country.”

The Washington Post

London Mayor (Rightfully) Suggest (Trump The Ignorant) Not Be Allowed In The UK

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN AND TIME NEWS AGENCIES)

London’s Mayor Suggests Cancelling President Trump’s State Visit After His Criticisms on Twitter

Updated: 7:49 AM ET | Originally published: Jun 05, 2017

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has suggested that U.S. President Donald Trump should not be welcomed to the U.K. because his policies are incompatible with British values, as a planned state visit approaches. The mayor’s comments follow criticism from Trump on Twitter over Khan’s response to a terror attack Saturday that left seven people dead in the British capital.

Speaking to Britain’s Channel 4 News on Monday, Khan said the U.S. President was wrong about “many things.” According to the Guardian, he added that he doesn’t think Trump should be welcomed to the country.

“I don’t think we should roll out the red carpet to the President of the U.S.A. in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for,” he said.

President Trump criticized Khan on Sunday after the mayor told Londoners that an increased police presence on the streets was “no cause for alarm.” Trump misleadingly suggested that Khan was downplaying the act of terrorism, which saw a van crash into pedestrians on London Bridge before three men exited the vehicle and attacked several people in nearby Borough Market.

After the mayor’s office contextualized Khan’s remarks, Trump went on the offensive again, tweeting on Monday that the explanation was a “pathetic excuse.”

Read more: President Trump’s Attack on London Mayor

Prime Minister Theresa May told British tabloid The Sun on Tuesday that even though Trump was “wrong in what he said about Sadiq Khan” his official state visit to Britain will still go ahead. “The relationship with America is our deepest and most important defence and security relationship” she told the newspaper. “Having said that, I think Donald Trump is wrong in what he said about Sadiq Khan, in relation to the attack on London Bridge.”

Trump’s attack on Khan has drawn sharp criticism not in the U.K. but also from American officials. The acting U.S. Ambassador in London, Lewis Lukens, issued a statement on Twitter offering praise and support for Khan: “I commend the strong leadership of the @MayorofLondon as he leads the city forward after this heinous attack,” it read.

I commend the strong leadership of the @MayorofLondon as he leads the city forward after this heinous attack. – LLukens 3/3 https://twitter.com/MayorofLondon/status/871270734835965952 

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, which represents 1,400 communities across the country, also sent Khan an unequivocal message of support.

“[Khan] has risen above this crisis of death and destruction, as mayors continue to do, to alleviate fear, to bring comfort to his people of London and to give support to the first responders who continue to protect, defend and provide emergency care to his people of London,” the statement read. “Thank you, Mayor Khan, for your leadership during this crisis.”

[Guardian]

Terrorist Attacks In City Center Of London England

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Van and knife attack leaves trail of casualties in ‘terrorist incidents’ on London Bridge and in nearby market

London police respond to ‘incident’ on London Bridge
Police respond to an ‘incident’ on London Bridge after a van reported to hit pedestrians on June 3. (The Washington Post)
June 3 at 8:19 PM
A van driving at high speed mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge Saturday night before the occupants got out and began stabbing patrons at nearby bars and restaurants, witnesses said in an attack that police described as terrorism.Police said at least one person had been killed. Witnesses described a trail of serious injuries on the bridge and in the adjacent Borough Market.

The attacks set off scenes of panic in the heart of London on a cool June evening as the city’s streets were filled with people heading home from dinner or out for a drink. In packed pubs — normally scenes of Saturday night revelry and merriment — patrons threw chairs at the attackers as the assailants used long knives to slash their way through crowds.

London’s Metropolitan Police said the attacks were being treated as “terrorist incidents.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May, who returned to 10 Downing Street for emergency meetings with security officials, had earlier described the “terrible incidents” as “a potential act of terrorism.”

As of 2 a.m. Sunday, it was unclear whether the assailants remained at large, but police urged the public to remain vigilant and to avoid the area.

If confirmed as terrorism, Saturday would mark the third major attack in Britain in as many months. The evening’s carnage carried grim echoes of a similar incident in late March, when a driver swerved into pedestrians on another Thames crossing, killing four, and then stabbed to death a police officer at the gates of Parliament.

May had lowered the nation’s threat level only days ago — from “critical” to “severe” — after having raised it following a bombing last month at a Manchester pop music concert that killed 22.

But even with the lower threat level, the nation’s intelligence services had continued to judge that another attack was likely.

Witnesses reported that a white van was traveling fast — approximately 50 miles per hour — when it mounted the sidewalk and plowed into a group of people crossing the Thames River on foot around 10:30 p.m..

Witnesses speaking to the BBC said the van collided with a guardrail, and three occupants got out. They then began attacking people on the bridge with knives before making their way to Borough Market.

London’s Metropolitan Police later confirmed an attack at Borough Market, an area packed with popular restaurants that is located just south of the bridge. Police said that armed officers were responding to the scene, that there were reports of injuries from knife attacks and that shots had been fired — though it was unclear by who.

“I heard many gunshots and I heard people running away,” said Joe Dillon, 23, who was near London Bridge when the incident occurred. “Police officers were shouting: ‘Get out of here, you need to go!’ I heard at least eight rounds of gunshots, but I’m not sure who was shooting. When I arrived a second after I had heard the screams and the shots, I saw five or six officers running toward the van.”

Cell phone video from a restaurant in the market showed people diving under tables amid the sound of breaking glass as officers rushed in and ordered patrons to stay down.

Tamara Alcolea, 24, who works as a bartender in a pub called Southwark Rooms, which is near the bridge, said the first indication that something was wrong was when she heard that someone had been stabbed. in the proximity of London Bridge.

“Then we heard gunshots and people started to hide beneath the tables,” Alcolea said. “We locked ourselves in the office. From the window, I could see an injured person being treated by emergency personnel. Then the police came in and told us to run. Everyone was panicking.”

As Alcolea recounted her story, she saw two friends who she had lost track of during the melee. She cried and hugged them as they reunited outside a police cordon.

Chris Jacobs, 52, and his wife Kavita Jacobs, 49, were woken up by police officers banging on their door on the third floor of an apartment building at Borough Market.

“I heard gunshots as we left the building,” said Chris Jacobs, who stood next to a petrol station outside the cordon, with no shoes on and holding his dog.

Alex Shellum, an eyewitness, told the BBC he was at the Mudlark pub in the London Bridge area when at around 10 p.m. “a woman probably in her early 20s staggered into the pub and she was bleeding heavily from the neck and from her mouth. It appeared to myself and my friends that her throat had been cut.”

Police said they were responding to a third potential incident in the Vauxhall area, which is about a mile from the scene of the first two incidents. The subway station at Vauxhall was briefly closed, but later reopened. Police later clarified that the Vauxhall incident was unrelated.

Dozens of police cars sped to London Bridge, with helicopters hovering overhead. Police closed the bridge and urged the public to avoid the area.

The incident caused chaos in the heart of London in an area normally bustling on a Saturday night. Pedestrians near the bridge said they were ordered by police to run. Video footage showed people fleeing in a panic. Two hours after the incidents began, police were still widening cordons and pushing bystanders further back from the scenes.

Members of the public were escorted away from the bridge with hands on their heads.

British leaders scrambled to respond to the attacks.

May, who had been out campaigning ahead of an election slated for Thursday, returned to Downing Street and was being briefed by security officials.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said on Twitter: “Brutal and shocking incidents reported in London. My thoughts are with the victims and their families. Thank you to the emergency services.”

President Trump was briefed on the incident, and immediately took to Twitter to say: “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!”

After taking criticism online for trying to use the attack to advance a policy goal that is now under review in the courts, he sent a follow up tweet minutes later: “Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U. K., we will be there – WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan issued a statement thanking emergency responders, and condemning “a deliberate and cowardly attack on innocent Londoners and visitors to our city enjoying their Saturday night.’

UK PM May’s lead narrows after Manchester attack placing landslide win in doubt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

UK PM May’s lead narrows after Manchester attack placing landslide win in doubt

By Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden | LONDON

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s lead over the opposition Labour Party has narrowed sharply, according to five opinion polls published since the Manchester attack, suggesting she might not win the landslide predicted just a month ago.

Four opinion polls published on Saturday showed that May’s lead had contracted by a range of 2 to 6 percentage points, indicating the June 8 election could be much tighter than initially thought when she called the snap vote.

“Theresa May is certainly the overwhelming favorite to win but crucially we are in the territory now where how well she is going to win is uncertain,” John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, told Reuters.

“She is no longer guaranteed to get the landslide majority that she was originally setting out to get,” said Curtice, a leading psephologist who is president of the British Polling Council.

May called the snap election in a bid to strengthen her hand in negotiations on Britain’s exit from the European Union, to win more time to deal with the impact of the divorce and to strengthen her grip on the Conservative Party.

But if she does not handsomely beat the 12-seat majority her predecessor David Cameron won in 2015, her electoral gamble will have failed and her authority could be undermined just as she enters formal Brexit negotiations.

Sterling on Friday suffered its steepest fall since January after a YouGov opinion poll showed the lead of May’s Conservatives over Labour was down to 5 percentage points.

LANDSLIDE IN QUESTION?

When May stunned politicians and financial markets on April 18 with her call for a snap election, opinion polls suggested she could emulate Margaret Thatcher’s 1983 majority of 144 seats or even threaten Tony Blair’s 1997 Labour majority of 179 seats.

But polls had shown May’s rating slipping over the past month and they fell sharply after she set out plans on May 18 to make some elderly people pay a greater share of their care costs, a proposal dubbed the ‘dementia tax’ by opponents.

As her lead shrank, May was forced to backtrack on the policy at an appearance before the media on Monday at which she appeared flustered and irritated when taking questions from reporters.

Campaigning was suspended for several days after the Manchester attack but resumed on Friday.

Polls since the attack showed little evidence that May – who as a former interior minister oversaw the police and domestic intelligence agency – had gained support.

“The campaign has changed,” Johnny Heald, managing director of ORB International, said. “Expect to see a forensic focus on Brexit and security over the next two weeks.”

Opinium said May’s lead had slipped to 10 percentage points, down from 13 points the week before and from 19 percentage points on April 19. Its online survey of 2,002 people was carried out between May 23 and 24.

ComRes said the lead of May’s Conservatives had fallen to 12 percentage points in an online poll of 2,024 carried out May 24-26, from 18 percentage points in a comparable poll on May 13.

ORB said May’s lead had halved to 6 percentage points, according to an online poll carried out May 24-25.

A YouGov survey of 2,003 people between May 25-26 showed May’s lead had narrowed 7 percentage points from nine a week ago.

The polls painted a complicated picture of public opinion, with Britons’ current voting intentions being influenced by both the deadly Manchester attack and May’s unpopular social care proposals.

Conservative election strategist, Lynton Crosby, has ordered a return to May’s main message: that only Theresa May can be trusted to negotiate Brexit, The Sunday Times reported.

(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Gareth Jones and Michael Holden)

Manchester England: Police Identify The Coward Who Set Off Bomb At Children’s Concert

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Police identified 22-year-old Salman Abedi as the suspected suicide bomber who detonated bombs as throngs of teenagers poured out of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester that killed 22 people.

The suspect carrying explosives acted as a lone attacker and died in the blast Monday night, which left the wounded and the dead scattered across the arena’s bloodied entrance and sent screaming girls running for cover, according to police.
Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins named the suspect Tuesday but said that the man’s identity had not been yet confirmed by a coroner.
The blast marked the deadliest terror attack on British soil since the 2005 London bombings. Hundreds of residents remembered the newest victims during a Tuesday evening vigil.
A powerful explosion shook part of the cavernous Manchester Arena late Monday as concertgoers streamed out following the American pop star’s last song.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack but offered no evidence.
An 8-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman have been named as the first victims of the attack, which has drawn condemnation and horror from around the world as a heinous assault targeting children.

Key developments

  • Ariana Grande suspends her world tour.
  • Police have carried out two raids in Manchester.
  • Queen Elizabeth II described bombing as “act of barbarity.”
  • 59 people injured, some in life-threatening situations.
  • US President Donald Trump slams attackers as “losers.”
  • British Prime Minister says police have identified the suspect.

People tend to the injured inside the Manchester Arena after the attack Monday night.

ISIS said on its Telegram channel Tuesday that a “soldier of the caliphate” was able to “plant explosive devices” at the arena, a US counter-terrorism source told CNN. ISIS routinely claims attacks it has no proven links with.
But authorities have discovered no evidence of a link between the attacker and an established terror group, a British counterterrorism official told CNN.
No determination has been on the sophistication of the explosive device or what chemicals were involved, the official said.
A US counterterrorism official said bombing “looks much like” an ISIS attack but that American intelligence officials were working with British counterparts to determine more.
On Tuesday evening, hundreds attended a vigil outside Manchester City Hall in honor of the victims.
“We will stand together to say that this city is greater than the force that aligns itself against it,” David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, told the crowd. “We are sending a signal not just to Manchester, but across the world that you can not defeat us because love in the end is always stronger than hate.”

Girls scramble over seats and barriers to flee the arena.

Girls scramble over seats and barriers to flee the arena. 00:41
Video from inside the arena showed girls screaming as they scrambled over chairs and railings to escape the 21,000-seat venue, while photographs showed bodies laying bloodied on the floor.
After an emergency Cabinet meeting, British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the attack as “callous” and “cowardly.”
“We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not a scene to cherish but as an opportunity for carnage,” May said in London before leaving for Manchester.

Young victims named

Saffie Rose Roussos, 8, was among those killed in the Manchester Arena attack.

Eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos from Leyland has been named as one of the fatalities, the Lancashire County Council confirmed.
Chris Upton, the head teacher at the Tarleton Community Primary School, described her as “simply a beautiful little girl” who was “quiet and unassuming with a creative flair.”

Victim Georgina Callander, left, pictured with Ariana Grande.

Georgina Callander, 18, was also killed, according to her school, the Bishop Rawstorne Church of England Academy.
“All of our students will gather together today for a time of prayer and reflection and to give thanks for the life of Georgina,” the school said.
At least 12 victims aged 16 or under were being treated at a children’s hospital for serious injuries, some of them fighting for their lives, a Manchester health official said.
Grande, who had just finished the first of three scheduled UK performances, tweeted about her devastation several hours later: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.”
The pop star has suspended her “Dangerous Woman” tour following the attack, a source with knowledge of the situation told CNN. Grande was scheduled to perform in London and across Europe through mid-June.
Queen Elizabeth II said Tuesday that “the whole nation has been shocked.”

‘Darkest of nights’ in Manchester

Britain has been under a “severe” terror threat alert for three years and there has been an uptick in terror-related arrests in recent months.
Police have warned that another attack was likely after a man plowed his car into a crowd on London’s Westminister Bridge in March and stabbed a policeman, in an attack that left six dead.
Monday’s bombing has raised concerns that a more sophisticated network may exist in the country.

Emergency crews evacuated victims at the Manchester Arena Monday night.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham described the attack as “our darkest of nights.”
“These were children, young people and their families that those responsible chose to terrorize and kill. This was an evil act,” he said.
Around 400 police were deployed overnight following the attack, and on Tuesday, large groups of armed police were seen in several parts of the city. Security was boosted in London.
People began paying their respects to the victims on Tuesday afternoon. A family of four arrived at St. Ann’s Square in the city center with a bouquet of flowers and balloons.
“I’m just feeling really down for all the families that lost their children and family members,” said Michael Heveril.
“It’s quite close to home — I never thought anything like this would ever happen in Manchester.”

Chaotic scenes

The explosion rocked the arena at around 10:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. ET). The sound of wailing sirens cut through the smoky aftermath.
Crying children and parents desperately tried to find each other as cell phone signals faltered, witnesses said.

Mom: I don't know if daughter is dead or alive

Mom: I don’t know if daughter is dead or alive 01:22
Manchester resident Charlotte Campbell told CNN she waited for news on her 15-year-old daughter, Olivia. “We’ve tried everything we can. They’re telling us to wait by the phones,” she said.
Olivia had gone to the concert with a friend and neither have been in contact. Her father was looking for the girls.
“I want her home and I want her safe,” Charlotte Campbell said. “I just want her to walk through the door.”

Trump calls attackers ‘losers’

president trump israel manchester explosion attack losers sot es_00003411

Pres. Trump: Manchester attacked by losers 02:05
US President Donald Trump slammed the attack, saying that terrorists were “losers.”
“So many young beautiful innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers in life. I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term. They would think that’s a great name. I will call them from now on losers because that’s what they are,” he said. “This wicked ideology must be obliterated.”
The US Department of Homeland Security said it was “closely monitoring” the situation.

France ‘has proof’ Assad regime was behind Syria chemical weapon attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

France ‘has proof’ Assad regime was behind Syria chemical weapon attack

Story highlights

  • France finds common elements in samples from Khan Sheikhoun and a 2013 Syria attack
  • French Foreign Ministry says there’s “no doubt about the responsibility of the Syrian regime”

(CNN) France has said that it has proof that the Syrian government was behind a chemical weapons attack in Syria earlier this month that killed 89 people.

The French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that samples taken from the attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun matched those from a previous incident.
“We have definite sources that the procedure used to make the Sarin sampled is typical of the methods developed in Syrian laboratories,” he said. “This method bears the signature of the regime, and that is what has allowed us to establish its responsibility in this attack.”
French laboratories had stored samples taken from other chemical attacks in Syria and so were able to compare them, he said.
A tweet posted by the French Foreign Ministry said: “There’s no doubt that Sarin was used. There is also no doubt about the responsibility of the Syrian regime.”
The attack has been widely blamed by Western powers on the Syrian government, which is supposed to have given up its chemical weapon stockpile in 2013 following an attack in the Ghouta area of Damascus that activists say killed 1,400 people.
International chemical weapons inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said last week they had found “incontrovertible” evidence that Sarin, or a similar substance, was used in the April 4 attack on Khan Sheikhoun, but did not apportion responsibility.
UK scientists had already found that Sarin or a similar chemical had been used in the attack, having tested samples smuggled from the site.

Assad denies chemical attack in interview

Assad denies chemical attack in interview
However, Damascus denies it had anything to do with the Khan Sheikhoun attack, instead blaming “terrorist” groups. It also denies it has any chemical weapons.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key Syrian ally, has suggested meanwhile that the attack was carried out by “forces” trying to frame the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Moscow also questioned the impartiality of the OPCW.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that Russia would not change its position regarding the Khan Sheikhoun attack in light of the French assessment.
“The Kremlin and President Putin still believe that conducting an impartial international investigation is the only way to find out the truth,” state-run TASS quoted Peskov as saying.

‘Common elements’

A Syrian man collects samples from the site of a suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun on April 5.

The French Foreign Ministry said its independent investigation, declassified so it could be shared with the world, supported “with certainty” the conclusions also reached by the United States, United Kingdom, Turkey and the OPCW.
Analysis by French experts of samples from the April 4 attack site and the blood of one of the victims confirmed the use of Sarin, its report said. Those samples were compared with samples from an attack on the northern Syrian town of Saraqeb in April 2013, in which three grenades containing Sarin were dropped by a helicopter, one of which failed to explode, it said. According to the French army, only the Syrian regime had helicopters so it had to be behind the attack.

Syrians bury the bodies of victims of the attack in Khan Sheikhoun, in Idlib province, on April 5, 2017.

Scientists established the presence of the same chemical compounds in samples taken from Saraqeb in 2013 and from Khan Sheikhoun, the French Foreign Ministry said. “The Sarin present in the weapons used on April 4 was produced according to the same manufacturing method as that used in the Sarin attack carried out by the Syrian regime in Saraqeb.”
The report also cited the French military’s assessment that a warplane had been deployed from the Syrian regime’s Shayrat airbase on the morning of April 4 and had carried out up to six airstrikes in the Khan Sheikhoun area. “Only the regime has such air assets,” said Ayrault.

Pentagon: No doubt Syria behind gas attack

Pentagon: No doubt Syria behind gas attack
“The French intelligence services believe that only Bashar al-Assad and some of the most influential members of his entourage are empowered to give the order to use chemical weapons,” the report added.
The report also describes the claim that rebel forces in the area had Sarin as “not credible.”
It casts doubt on the Syrian regime’s promised destruction of its chemical stockpile, saying that French intelligence services believe “important doubts remain about the accuracy, completeness and sincerity of the dismantling of the Syrian chemical arsenal.”

Missile strike

The chemical attack in Syria prompted the United States to launch its first military strike on the Syrian regime in the six-year war, causing a major rift between Washington and Moscow.
On President Donald Trump’s orders, US warships launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat airbase, US officials said.
The Khan Sheikhoun incident has led to renewed calls for Assad to be forced from power, as international ceasefire and peace talks continue to end a conflict which has killed 400,000 people, according to UN data.

World leaders for Silk Road talks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

World leaders for Silk Road talks

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held from May 14 to 15 in Beijing and President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony and host the round table summit of the leaders, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday.

Xi has championed the “One Belt, One Road” initiative to build a new Silk Road linking Asia, Africa and Europe, a landmark program to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects.

China has dedicated US$40 billion to a Silk Road Fund and the idea was the driving force behind the establishment of the US$50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Among those attending will be Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Indonesian President Joko Widodo will also be attending the forum.

British finance minister Philip Hammond will come as Prime Minister Theresa May’s representative, while Germany and France will send high-level representatives.

Wang confirmed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as one of the leaders coming, along with the Spanish, Greek, Hungarian, Serb and Polish prime ministers and Swiss and Czech presidents.

“This is an economic cooperation forum, an international cooperation platform that everyone is paying attention to, supports and hopes to participate in,” Wang said.

“One Belt, One Road is to date the most important public good China has given to the world, first proposed by China but for all countries to enjoy,” said.

“The culture and historical genes of One Belt, One Road come from the old Silk Road, so it takes Eurasia as its main region,” he said, adding that representatives of 110 countries would attend the forum.

A section of the New Silk Road is in Pakistan, where some projects run through the disputed Kashmir region.

Wang dismissed concerns, saying the Pakistan project had no direct connection to the dispute and India was welcome to participate in the New Silk Road.

“Indian friends have said to us that One Belt, One Road is a very good suggestion,” he said.

During the forum, China is expected to sign cooperative documents with nearly 20 countries and more than 20 international organizations, Wang told reporters.

China will work with countries along the route on action plans concerning infrastructure, energy and resources, production capacity, trade and investment, which will help to turn the grand blueprint into a clear roadmap, he said.

Another task of the forum will be to push forward delivery of cooperative projects, Wang said.

During the forum, parties will identify major cooperative projects, set up working groups and establish an investment cooperation center.

China will also work with all parties on a set of measures that will include improved financial cooperation, a cooperation platform for science, technology and environmental protection, and enhanced exchanges and training of talent.

Participants will sign financing agreements to support their cooperative projects, Wang said.

China will use the forum to build a more open and efficient international cooperation platform; a closer, stronger partnership network; and to push for a more just, reasonable and balanced international governance system, Wang said.

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